We welcome Diploma Programme (DP) graduate Cecilia Villavicencio of Instituto Santa Brígida to reflect on her experience transitioning roles from IB student to becoming a head of academics. This is her first story in the graduate voices series.
I was one of the three full diploma candidates of the 1995 cohort at St Brigid’s School, where I studied my whole life. It was natural that I would become a full diploma candidate, so I did not even think about it before accepting and have never regretted that decision. The IB is the most relevant education experience I’ve had so far. I do not recall burn out or stress while undertaking the programme, articulated from students pursuing our national programme. I got a 37. And, I was preparing for a dance competition at the same time I was getting ready for my finals! Back then, I imagined my exams were flying all over the world. From the perspective of a 1990s adolescent, I had no clue how these things worked. I don’t even know how my results arrived at my school, by fax? I remember being at home in January (our summer) and receiving a phone call from someone from school informing the results.
From IB student to IB advocate
“Self-care and balance have become part of my daily vocabulary and I look forward to help students develop in well-rounded learners.”
Ten years after earning my IB diploma, I applied a job posting to become an IB staff member. Firstly, I had no idea there was an IB office in Buenos Aires (at that time). Secondly, I was not aware that there were two other IB programmes (Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP), in 2006). I was new to the education world. I had been new to other worlds before, so it was not new to me that I had to study EVERYTHING to become knowledgeable and do a good job. Mentored by Marta Rodger (the IB Latin America’s regional director back then), I became responsible for the Diploma Programme (DP) evaluation process, working hand-in-hand with all the DP authorized schools in the region. When the region became the Americas, I continued doing the same job for all the 1,200 DP authorized schools from Canada to Chile. I trained experienced coordinators to become IB educators, I led the, “Evaluating your DP”, workshop in Latin America so many times that I think I got to know every DP coordinator in the region. I inspected IB exam sessions and was always telling DP coordinators what to do and how to do it!
From IB advocate to living the IB real life at school
Despite being so connected to the DP and coordinators in my role at the IB, I had never been a DP coordinator myself or stepped into a school to understand the day-to-day. I took the opportunity to move to Spain, where I was a DP coordinator for five years (that felt like ten years of experience). The first four years were the hardest … I knew what to do but had never done it. I didn’t want to disappoint those that had hired me because of my IB experience! Helped by my colleague, Teresa Torres, and supported by our Principal, Maricruz Lagar, I was able to survive and, eventually, succeed the adaptation process, develop my unknown leadership skills, tighten relationships with our team of teachers and become like a school mum for all my DP students. I saw teachers and students struggling with workload, stress and burn out and knew that I wanted to support the school community to experience the what I had during my DP days.
From living the IB life at school to IB school leader
Now, I am no longer a DP coordinator, but I am still related to the programme at my current school, where I serve as an IB educator. I lead a bigger team of K-12 teachers, as I am in charge of the academics in a private school in Argentina. I had discovered my mission in Spain, with the help of a professional coach: I take care of myself and make sure I work the right number of hours and promote that same idea in my leader colleagues and our teachers as well as our students! I see it’s not an easy task in a super busy world. Self-care and balance have become part of my daily vocabulary and I look forward to help students develop in well-rounded learners.
Cecilia Villavicencio is a Diploma Programme (DP) graduate from Instituto Santa Brígida in Buenos Aires―Argentina. In 2006 she became IB staff, in charge of the DP evaluation process in all American schools. In 2013, she became the DP coordinator at Colegio Internacional SEK-Ciudalcampo in Madrid―Spain. At present, she is head of academics at Colegio San Ignacio in Río Cuarto―Argentina.
To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates check out these IB programme stories. If you are an IB grad and want to share your story, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter Instagram and YouTube!
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